franchise support team
Published October 13, 2021

What Makes a Great Franchise Business Coach and How You Can Make Them More Successful

Everything you missed (and need to know) from the IFA’s Operations Conference – Part I

This year’s IFA Operations Conference was packed with great energy, thought leadership and sharing of challenges and best practices. One of the most difficult – but also most crucial –  roles on your support team is the franchise business coach (FBC). FBCs are there to support the franchisee, but also to execute on the corporate team’s goals and needs. 

Amy Perkins, Senior Business Consultant at Ben & Jerry’s, tackled being “stuck in the middle” by inviting one of her Ben & Jerry’s franchisees, Antonio McBroom, and Bill DiPaola, COO of Ballard Brands, to share their  perspectives on what makes a great FBC and how to get the most out of the three-way relationship between the franchisor, franchisee, and FBC. 

These are some of the key takeaways to consider as you hire, train, and support your support team:

What is the role of the FBC?

  • Help franchisees grow their businesses. Antonio sees his FBC as an extension of his team. They provide perspective on what’s happening in other franchisees’ businesses and in other markets. Bill believes the FBC has two goals: help franchisees make more money, and save more money to their bottom line. 
  • Know your franchisee’s definition of success. Each franchisee has a different reason they are in business, and has a different end goal. The more you know about them, the more you can tie their performance and results to those goals. This starts with working with franchisees to define a clear, personalized vision for their business and what they want to get out of it over time.
  • Coach and build relationships. Relationships are built on trust, which takes time. As Antonio said, “We need to experience some storms together,” before that trust is solid. As a coach you need to put yourself in the franchisee’s shoes to understand and RESPECT their perspective. If franchisees don’t believe you have their business and best interests top of mind, it’s hard to convince them that anything you are saying or doing is something they should take into consideration.

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What characteristics and skills make a great FBC?

  • Soft skills. Emotional intelligence has become more important in working with franchisees. Strong communication skills, the understanding of when and how you can offer flexibility around what you are asking them to do, and humility were some of the soft skills the panelists identified. Franchisors need to provide this type of training to their coaches – not just when they join the team, but continually to help them learn and practice these important skills.
  • Brand (or industry experience). Franchisees respect FBCs that have been in their shoes. That could mean hiring FBCs that come up through one of the stores, working for franchisees, owning a business – anything that shows them this FBC has “been there.” If you can’t hire people from within your brand, how can you design training to incorporate hands-on work experience with franchisees in a location before they are put into a coaching role? Amy says it’s important for people in her role to also look for education OUTSIDE of franchising to bring new ideas and fresh thinking to the franchisees she coaches.
  • A thick skin (or hard chin). Franchisees complain. Sometimes they just need to be heard, and they can come at you hard. Some days you have to take the punches before you can move them through it. 

What franchisees don’t want from FBCs:

  • Don’t rain on my parade. When franchisees are excited and optimistic, they don’t want you to immediately present the negative side of the story. They need you to be a coach and sometimes more importantly, their cheerleader!
  • Snitches get stitches. This got a chuckle from the audience, but playground rules apply. Everything you talk about doesn’t need to go right back to corporate. A great FBC needs to know what can stay between the two of you to help the relationship and business, and if/when something needs to be funneled back to the franchisor.
  • Don’t shove YOUR changes at me. When you want a franchisee to invest additional dollars or make major changes, frame the investment around THEIR goals and business. Give examples of how it’s helping othersand the results you are seeing. “Sell” them on it vs presenting it as  a mandate or noncompliance. 

Finally, I love this piece of advice that Bill shared, which can be applied to ALL relationships: “Don’t expect anything from anyone before you serve them.” Focus on trust and building an authentic relationship, and the harder conversations will become easier. 

In addition, check out the recommended reading from the “Stuck in the Middle” panelists:

The best way to measure the success of your FBCs and your efforts to support them, is to ask the people who know best – your franchisees! Franchise Business Review’s franchisee satisfaction survey can provide you with critical insights on franchisees’ relationship with FBCs and whether they value the support they are receiving. 

Click here to schedule a 10-minute demo to see how you can get a confidential assessment of your brand and find out what franchisees are saying about the support they receive.

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About the Author: Michelle Rowan

Michelle is the president of FBR, chair of the International Franchise Association Women's Franchise Committee, and a Certified Franchise Executive. She has facilitated CEO Performance Groups and Executive Networking Groups and is also a mentor of UNH college students. When she is not at work she is usually reading, playing outside, or hanging out with her husband and daughter.
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